Long before there was Chip and Joanna Gaines and Fixer Upper, there was Allysa Torey and Magnolia Bakery. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Magnolia but it’s the bakery that people line up around the corner to get their hands on yummy cupcakes. Dare I say Magnolia started the cupcake trend? Or am I just fangirling too much? Anyway, I’ve wanted to get my hands on Allysa’s cookbook, at home with Magnolia, for a while and I finally did. I checked it out from my local library (because you all know I don’t buy a book before I’ve looked at it). Before I start reviewing the book, I need to mention that I have never read a cookbook from cover to cover before. Oh! Let me also mention a couple of ‘six degrees of separation’ here. First, a few years ago I was reading Country Living magazine and they had the most beautiful feature of a farm house and garden. Oh it was so beautiful: the farmhouse, the food, the garden, the truck. I just loved it all. At the time I had no idea that the farm was in the same area where I lived. In fact it would be years before this came full circle. Anyway, I tore out the feature and kept it for a long time, finally losing the article after one too many moves. Fast forward a few years and my first taste of Magnolia cupcakes (long after Allysa sold Magnolia bakery). I knew I loved everything about the bakery: the style, the flavors, you name it, I loved it. It wasn’t until I found Allysa on instagram that I realized she was the same person in the beloved article from years ago and that her farm was in the town I just moved from where I still visit weekly! Not only that but my last visit to the City I was walking uptown and what did I happen to walk past? You know it. Magnolia Bakery. While it’s not the flagship store (this one is on 6th Avenue), it was still fun to spot and snap a couple of pics of for this post. On to the review (isn’t that why we’re here?!?!). I read through the book fairly quickly, the book is 157 pages and that includes the index. I liked Allysa’s style. She mentions how most of the recipes can be made in advance, or some portion of the recipe can, and the recipes we tried certainly had those components to them. The book is broken down into 8 sections: Starters, Soups, Lunch, Weeknight Dinners, Weekend Dinners, Sides and Casseroles, Vegetables, and Dessert. The weeknight dinners are easier to prepare meals while the weekend dinners are more involved.
After much deliberation, I decided to try 2 recipes: pork cutlets with sour cream and mustard sauce (page 51, weeknight dinners) and everyday chocolate cake (page 120, desserts). I’m glad I chose these two recipes. Let me tell you the pork with that sauce? It will remain a staple in our house. it was so delicious and refreshing. I actually used the sauce the next night over salmon. It’s a really good, easy to make, versatile sauce. It makes a lot of sauce using ingredients that you would have on hand. And the breading on the pork? Equally tasty. It uses fresh herbs that really come through and meld well with the sauce. I paired the pork with roasted baby potatoes and carrots. I totally forgot to add a green vegetable though! Oops.
And because this was a special dinner for us we opened a bottle of Estancia Cabernet which is quickly becoming my favorite everyday wine.
On to the cake. What can I say? I love chocolate cake. I usually use the recipe from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa Powder box but this cake has less steps and uses fewer ingredients. It was easy to make and I baked it while we were eating dinner. By the time we were finished, the cake was ready to come out of the oven. Of course then I had to take photos!
So what would I do differently? I did not plan ahead like I should have (I went somewhere during the day and now I can’t remember where, but I got home rather late and then needed to prepare the meal). So I would definitely make some things ahead of time: the breading for the pork and the sauce. Both of these things can easily be made in the morning and make the evening cooking much easier. I would also make the cake ahead of time, although once the main meal was cooking, the cake was super easy. And I don’t normally do the frying in our house, the Mister does. So I have a lot to learn about frying. The breading came off the pork and as the Mister told me afterwards, you need to start with a hot pan before putting the breaded meat in! But everything that didn’t go right with this meal was user error and not related to the cookbook or recipes at all.
There’s a lot to love about this cookbook. Did I mention the pictures? They are very reminiscent of the article I mentioned above. Unfortunately I have a lot to learn about photography and don’t think my pics do the food nor the cookbook justice.
Bottom line is that I would definitely put this cookbook in my collection and we would definitely make meals from it again.